My Bomb Shelter
My bomb shelter has four levels. You enter through a spiral staircase. The top floor is the reception/detox area.There are facilities for washing off radiation, and a partition to quarantine any diseased people. There is an emergency eyewash station. There are a few chairs. The manhole that leads to the next level is made of stainless steel and only I can open it.
If I opened the manhole for you, you would climb down a ladder. This is my work floor. There is a small laboratory. My scientist friends have recommended some useful chemicals and instruments. I’m no scientist, but I would hate to be trapped down here without a few beakers.
The arms locker is also on this floor. A couple of my gun-nut friends took care of this one. I’m not crazy about guns myself, but I am quite confident that I will be able to defend the bomb shelter. Besides the guns, I have a nice collection of blunt objects as well. I would hate to run out of ammunition and have nothing to fight my way out with.
There is a small gym on this floor as well. My bodybuilder friend recommended a bowflex, and Linda from work recommended a treadmill, which I thought was more sensible. I also have a punching bag that might come in handy. I don’t really work out much. I prefer to get my exercise outside, walking. But I would hate for my muscles to atrophy if I had to be down here for years.
This floor alone cost me millions, and that’s not even considering what it costs to power it. I have three generators, buried with forty-thousand gallons of fuel, not to mention the solar plant on the surface. Losing power would be a nightmare. Even if the power goes out in the entire rest of the world, I still want to be able to play my records and read by lamplight.
The record player is on the third-deepest floor. This floor is my sanctum. If security was breached on the top two floors, I could seal this manhole, the thickest manhole, and still be able to live out the rest of my days in peace down here. My bedroom is here. It’s smaller and safer than my bedroom on the surface, and it has more of my favorite art on the walls. The walls are authentic wood and painted a deep blue. I like this bedroom better than my real bedroom. This is the bedroom that I would stay in for the rest of eternity, if I had to stay in one bedroom for the rest of eternity.
The reading room is my favorite room on this floor. There is barely enough room for the chair and the record player between the bookshelves and the artificial fireplace. It almost feels warm in here. The bookshelves go up to the ceiling, and they make me feel more secure than the four-foot thick slab of steel above my head.
I have collected here not just my favorite books, but the books I think would be the most valuable to a future civilization. Along with dictionaries, atlases and encyclopedias, I have all the great classics of literature, and a pretty good record collection too. I have enough fragments of culture to start civilization again if I needed to, and I’ll never get bored.
My food stores are buried on the deepest level. This is by far the largest floor in my bomb shelter. It resembles a massive, cavernous warehouse, stacked wall to wall with cans. It took me years to collect them all. But I don’t just have non-perishables. I have a freezer, filled with my favorite delicacies. And maybe someday, long after the last cow has died, I will sit down to a steak dinner and listen to Mozart in my bomb shelter.
I hope I never have to use this bomb shelter. I really do. Some people don’t believe me, seeing as it’s taken me so much of my life to build it. I do come down here often, sometimes for hours, sometimes even days, before returning to the surface. I like it here, but I wouldn’t want to be trapped here forever. I keep thinking that the worst will happen, and it hasn’t so far. But if the worst really does happen, and everything on the surface is destroyed, I have a bomb shelter with four levels. And you would be welcome to come and stay.
It’s even easier than usual to think about how little you’ve accomplished when you live in a soul-crushing heat trap of an apartment. The factory was such a place. Renovated with habitability as an afterthought, the brick facade still housed a gun drill factory on the first floor. The entryway made me worry about getting cancer even more than all the things that I do that will give me cancer, but at least it was air conditioned. Upstairs a stifling heat ruled the place, growing more and more leaden the nearer I got to my apartment door. In the windowless main room four fans rattled constantly as they stirred the thick sedentary air. Inside the apartment I was shirtless, often pantless, suckling on freeze pops like a chainsmoker to cool off.
Sometimes I went outside to smoke. I would pace the gravel parking lot in the hot sun, venting out clouds of smoke and sweating. It provided a momentary break from the stillness of the factory, walking outside and back in again, once every hour or so until I could go somewhere else. The brief exercise of walking inside and out helped stave off the dissatisfaction of choosing between one hot, inhospitable place and another.
For three people we generated an alarming amount of trash. Most of the food I ate came out of little disposable plastic bags which I opened and then put into little resealable plastic bags. Sticky freeze pop sleeves were scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. Cigarette butts were also scattered on the floor like cigarette butts. I wish that all my favorite types of food didn’t have to leave wrappers behind them like little bits of incriminating evidence. All food should come in a blank white package that dissolves instantly upon being opened and leaves no trace of the consumer devouring his prey. Either that or all food should come stamped with health warnings bigger than the label itself and that lie around your apartment long after they’ve been emptied out, like on the packs of duty-free cigarettes Eliot brought back from Europe.
The weekend before we moved out of the factory we drove up to Brattleboro. Up in the mountains, the trees were already turning red. Premature patches of fall color crackled like embers in the late summer green. Lately chilly days had been flickering over town as if someone had been toggling a light switch back and forth between hot and cold, and apparently this had been confusing the trees.The flickering red of their leaves outside the window gave me the impression that I had not seen nearly enough of the world, and probably never would.
Eliot drove too fast as usual, but I figured it was more comfortable inside the car than outside of it. I glanced anxiously between the scenery and the road, watching up ahead for an impending accident that I knew I would be powerless to prevent if it happened.
Science says that summers are getting hotter every year and winters are getting colder every year and the two of them are getting closer together every year, or something like that. Science says that driving too fast makes it more likely that you’ll have an accident, and that it wastes more gas, or something like that. Science says that if you smoke too much you’ll get cancer and if you smoke even a little bit you might get cancer and if you’re around too many people who smoke you might get cancer but you can still quit before it’s too late and even if it is too late you can make it less too late if you quit, or something like that.
The factory was not a good place to be stoned but it was a worse place to be sober. Getting high was not quite as enjoyable as it used to be, but it was more enjoyable than thinking. When I was out of weed I would pace around the factory neurotically, feebly but anxiously trying to coax myself into action before inevitably breaking down to scrape resin. My most consistent source of resin was a glass pipe shaped like a hollow fish. As I chipped the black pieces of residue off the inner walls of the smoke chamber, I wondered if the insides of me and the insides of the fish looked the same by now, both of them having held their fair share of smoke.
I lit the resin and it crackled and glowed red. I didn’t want to think about what the resin was doing to me. I didn’t want to think about garbage and hotter summers and cancer and boredom. Thankfully, the resin took care of that.